The collapse of the Russian army’s northeastern front in Ukraine has weakened the Russian centre, creating an exploitable power vacuum in what Putin calls the ‘near abroad’. The fallout of the proxy superpower conflict is moving east. Putin’s post Soviet era security club, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) is either turning in on itself or on Russia.
In the Caucasus, the frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which has already cost 7,000 lives since 2020, has erupted again as a direct result of the invasion of Ukraine. Workers on both sides are being killed as global capital struggles at the edges of Russian decline. Azerbaijan, emboldened by the weakening of the Russian peace keeping force to shore up its Ukrainian front, and it’s new found favour with the West following a lucrative gas supply contract with the EU, is testing the limits of its master’s voice. Both sides have seen Russia’s weakness in their failure to invoke collective security guarantees under the CSTO, and it is Europe that is stepping in to fill the gap.
The conflict thaw continues in central Asia between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, both with Russian military bases. Tajiks are being sacrificed in their states aggression to secure a dynastic succession to power, bringing further instability to China’s Uyghur border state of Xinjiang. Russia’s impotence is China’s opportunity as Putin discovers that his new “partnership with no limits” is a concept with distinctly Chinese characteristics.
The two leaders met on the sidelines of the Samarkand ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’ summit in Uzbekistan 14th-16th September. Putin presents this as a global shift to the East against the “empire of lies” as he recently called the West. Unfortunately for Russia it is actually a $35 billion funded takeover bid of the region by Chinese capital as part of its ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.
For all the talk China has offered little in practical terms for Putin other than getting his gas at knock down prices. In reality China is biding its time, waiting to catch a failing Russia like a ripe fruit.
If proof were needed, it lies in Kazakhstan. Despite Putin sending troops in in January to prop up the regime in the face of widespread unrest, it too is testing the limits of Russian power. Having vowed not to break western sanctions nor recognise the puppet Ukrainian statelets, Moscow has questioned its sovereignty too. Putin’s henchman though, Dmitry Medvedev, had to withdraw his tweet that it was an “artificial state” when China made clear who is actually in charge.
In the Kazak capital Nur-Sultan, shortly before his meeting with Putin, Xi spelt it out: “We will continue to resolutely support Kazakhstan in protecting its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The fault line is no longer a European continental one between Russian capital and the West, but a Eurasian one over who controls Russian capital.
That Russia knows this, however reluctantly, was given away by Kremlin policy-wonk Dimitry Babich from Moscow State University in an Al Jazeera interview as the Samarkand summit ended:
“Compared to what Russia faces from the West which is total hostility, being in junior partnership with China does not seem so terrible”.
None of this is accidental nor coincidental. The US and Europe have been stirring this mix for a long time recognising that chaos in this ‘near abroad’ is a potential second front in its global power struggle.
Most of the dying in these new conflicts are conscripts and poor farmers – the workers and producers of poor countries of little interest to the West other than what they add to Russia’s destabilisation. Except fuel rich Azerbaijan and the relatively wealthy geographic giant Kazakhstan. Both of which are listening to the West’s enticements.
Events in Ukraine are far from over despite the hype. As Churchill put it once “this not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.
The war spreading, the vested interests in the conflict are deepening, the losses of our class in capitalism’s bloody power struggle are growing exponentially. It remains the single most urgent existential threat we currently face.
‘No War but the Class War’ is no mere slogan. It is our necessary response to survive and share solidarity with our class internationally. The fight at home is the only way we can resist the slaughter unleashed in the bosses pursuit of profit here and abroad.
For workers there is no “quarrel in a faraway country, between people of whom we know nothing” as they would have us believe. There is our class against theirs. We, the workers and producers worldwide, resisting spilling our blood for their gold.
In their last resort they would see us die in this unfolding conflict rather than thrive in the abolition of it. In response we must see that their abolition is our class obligation!